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11th May, 2018

The Difference Between Site Specific And Generic Risk Assessments

We often hear the terms 'site specific' and 'generic' risk assessments. But what exactly do these terms mean and what category to your risk assessments fall into?

Risk assessments are a legal requirement, needed by your team, and clients ask for them.

If your health and safety is being reviewed, you will often be asked for copies of site specific risk assessments.

One of the reasons risk assessment fail when they are reviewed is that they are too generic.

But what does this mean?

What are generic risk assessments?

Generic risk assessments are risk assessments that are filled in but have not been adapted to a specific site or project.

Generic risk assessments aren't bad. It might surprise you to know that, when used right, they can help you produce better risk assessments.

Many contractors have folders full of risk assessment templates for their work tasks. These would be classed as generic risk assessments. They may be specific to the task or activity you are carrying out, but they are not specific to a site or project.

If generic risk assessments fail reviews, why would contractors keep them?

Because they can help you create site specific risk assessments!

There's nothing wrong with starting from a template, in fact, it's good management practice. Better to have a risk assessment template to work from, then start from scratch each time.

It helps you cover all your bases, be consistent, and remind you of the things you need to consider.

After all, most of the hazards and risks associated with say, plumbing, will be the same wherever you are working.

But that's most of the hazards and risks, not all of them.

What makes a risk assessment site specific?

Site specific risk assessments are risk assessments that have been adapted to a specific site, and only contain relevant information for that particular project.

Site specific risk assessments take into account the actual site conditions and type of project and address only the relevant hazards.

Why?

Well, in the construction industry, your sites are likely to change often. One week you can be fixing a toilet in an empty residential property, and the next you might be installing a heating system in occupied commercial premises.

Your generic risk assessments can easily become site specific, by editing and adapting them to the project you are planning.

That's why we have included an online editor with our risk assessment templates - so that the documents you create with HASpod are site specific for your project.

Read how to create a site specific health and safety document on HASpod.

You can review the project and site conditions, remove any hazards that don't apply to your work and include any site-specific hazards that have not been addressed in the generic risk assessment.

For example, your plumbing risk assessment template might address the hazard of contact with waste from the removal of sanitary ware. This would be applicable for a project that involved toilet replacement, but would not need to be included on a heating system installation project.

You can still easily use your template for the project, by editing it to add the site-specific information.

Are site specific risk assessments better than generic ones?

Your finished risk assessment should be site specific, so as the final document that you send out, yes, a site specific risk assessment is best.

But, often, your site-specific risk assessment will have started out as a generic one.

In the example above, the same plumbing risk assessment template could be adapted for use on two different plumbing projects.

Creating health and safety documents, especially risk assessments which are required for most activities, takes time.

There's nothing wrong with using generic risk assessments to help you create site specific documents for your projects. In fact, often these will help you create a better document.

Your templates will remind you of the main hazards and the standard controls you need to control them. They will also help you to keep consistency and develop good practice and can be changed as needed for each project.

The big thing to remember is to make those changes and to create a site specific risk assessment from your generic template.

After all, each project is different and will have mixed safety challenges, even if the type of work you carry out at each location is similar.

Review your risk assessment before you start work to make sure only relevant site-specific information is included.

Keep a copy of your site-specific risk assessments on site and at the office. Make sure everyone who needs them, sees them.

These are the risk assessments you share with your team and send to the client, they are specific to the project.

But don't forget to also keep a copy of your generic risk assessments. You can use these again as a starter for future projects. All your hard work can be used again to create more risk assessments.

Find out more about creating site specific risk assessments with HASpod, and choose from hundreds of risk assessment templates.

This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and a degree in construction management. She is NEBOSH qualified and a member of IOSH.

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